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Feds Eye Key Tract in Carolina Mountain Country

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April 11, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

A 76-acre tract in Mills River, N.C., near Pisgah National Forest is one of four properties the U.S. Forest Service is considering purchasing after receiving $1 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

"Overall, all of these tracts help protect some real threatened treasures," said Stevin Westcott, public affairs officer for the USDA Forest Service. "They're all high priority."

According to the Hendersonville Times-News, the money was given to protect the North Carolina Threatened Treasures, all adjacent to Pisgah National Forest, including the Mills River land near North Mills River Campground, Backbone Ridge and Mulberry Creek in Caldwell County and Roan Mountain National Trails.

Westcott said the Forest Service has significant resources needed to protect areas from climate change or to improve access to national forests.

"We have a lot of priority sites," he added. "These are among the top priorities."

The Mills River site will cost $2.75 million. Westcott said the properties must have willing sellers who will be paid the land's appraised value. Backbone Ridge is 225 acres valued at $1.5 million; Mulberry Creek's 295 acres are valued at $1.038 million; and Roan Mountain National Trails is 136 acres valued at $1.2 million.

The Mills River area is known as a "high-quality, delayed-harvest trout stream," Westcott said. There are popular trails for hikers and mountain bikers.

The river serves as a water source for thousands of people, Westcott said. He added that immediately downstream from North Mills River is an endangered mussel, known as the Appalachian elktoe. Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy officials are working with the landowner to bring the area under conservation.

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